The Journal of the Friends of Sywell Aerodrome

No. 13 Summer 2006

All aboard the Funbus!

This new addition will be a major asset to the<br>aeronautical atmosphere of Hangar One.
This new addition will be a major asset to the
aeronautical atmosphere of Hangar One.

Early in 2005 it was planned to increase the aeronautical 'feel' of Hangar One by purchasing a static aeroplane for installation in the venue. The brief was simple - it could not be an 'active' aeroplane, it had to be a "period' type and wood/canvas was to be avoided due to Health and Safety regulations. After a year of searching and discounting types as diverse as Jet Provosts, Chipmunks, Bulldogs and L29 Delfin jet trainers a suitable airframe was located.

One of only three replica Vickers FB5 'Gunbus' biplanes in the UK had just been made available. This was acquired in December 2005 by the Aerodrome.

The Replica

This particular aircraft was constructed for a film in 1986 known as 'Sky Bandits' (it was also released as 'Gunbus'). At the time it was one of the most expensive independent British movies ever made and unfortunately -it bombed.

The plot centred on two cowboys in the last days of the Old West who faced gaol for a bank robbery or enforced conscription and a posting overseas to the Western Front of 1916. They chose the latter. Somehow they fell in with an RFC squadron and become involved in a mission to destroy a Zeppelin protected by a fleet of Gotha bombers!

In any event the Gunbus was used as a taxying prop in the film and was, to all intents and purposes a scale replica, made from metal tubing with fabric covered wings. It is marked (believed spuriously) as A1452 'Bombay 3' (presumably a presentation aircraft) in RFC Livery. There is no doubt however that the aircraft will be a major asset to the aeronautical atmosphere of Hangar One and a perfect compliment to the Sywell resident BE2C replica rebuild. It is hoped to get her taxiable in the future!

Vickers FB5 'Gunbus' acquired by<br>the Aerodrome in December 2005.
Vickers FB5 'Gunbus' acquired by
the Aerodrome in December 2005.

The Original

The Vickers FB5 Gunbus (Fighting Biplane 5) first flew in July 1914 just prior to the outbreak of WW1. It used a pusher and twin boom configuration popular at the time due to problems of firing a gun through the propeller arc in a 'tractor' aeroplane (it was not until later in 1915 that Anthony Fokker perfected interrupter gear to synchronise forward firing machine guns with the propeller blades in his Fokker Eindekker). The gunner sat in front of the pilot and operated his coaxial Lewis Gun. The FB5 equipped No.11 Squadron RFC became the worlds first fighter squadron in July 1915 with 2nd Lt GSM Insall of that unit receiving the Victoria Cross on the 7th November 1915 Having forced down a German Aviatik and destroying it with a well-aimed incendiary bomb, his aircraft was then damaged by ground fire. After force landing the aircraft, Insall and his observer/gunner repaired a fuel leak and flew back to base the following morning. By 1916 the swift evolution of fighter design left the Gunbus outclassed and it was replaced by more advanced machines such as the Sopwith Pup.

Crew:Pilot and Observer/Gunner
Powerplant:One 100hp Gnome Monosoupape 9 Cylinder Rotary
Max Speed:70mph
Armament:One .303 Lewis Gun, hand held bombs, flechettes(darts)
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Sywell Aviation Ltd. is a company registered in England with company no. 03180760 & VAT no. 623 8222 56.
Registered offices: Hall Farm, Sywell, Northampton, NN6 0BT.

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